A Good Nutrition for People With HIV

A proper nutrition sets the foundation for better health. In the case of people with HIV, of course this is also true. Once a person has been diagnosed with this infection, it’s important that they keep a high energy and protein diet in order to maintain better health. 

Because of this, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), published the manual on cares and nutritional support for people with HIV/AIDS.

In this document, you can find not only the recommendations to cover nutritional needs for people with HIV/AIDS, but also some tips to manage certain complications that may arise, such as diarrhea, loss of appetite, nausea and even dermatosis (affections of the skin). 

Given that HIV affects the person’s immune system, they require more nutrients and energy in order to fight this and other infections. However, some symptoms related to HIV or to taking the treatment to fight it may make it harder for the person to ingest the necessary foods in order to have a proper nutrition. Since medications may alter the taste of foods, reduce appetite or interfere with nutrient absorption in the organism, besides the fact that fatigue and depression also reduce appetite or disposition for self-care through a healthy diet. 

These problems can lead to inconvenient weight loss, which is why the FAO recommends eating more: 

  • Basic foods like rice, wheat, bread, potatoes and bananas. 
  • Beans, lentils, peanuts and sunflower seeds. 
  • Proteins such as meat, fish, eggs and chicken (as frequently as possible), or entrails like liver or kidneys. 
  • Dried fruits, fruits or carrot snacks.
  • Dairy such as milk, butter, yogurt and cheese. 

The organization also recommends that meals are prepared as appetizing as possible, and even has a section for recipes to gain weight. We must not forget that an early treatment (among other multiple advantages) is an important factor in order to maintain a proper body weight. 

On the other hand, vitamins and minerals are crucial to staying healthy, since they protect against infections by nourishing the skin, lungs and intestine. Vitamins A, B, C and E, and the main minerals such as iron, selenium and zinc are obtained from fruits and vegetables, which are more nutritional if they’re eaten as naturally as possible, without preservatives or without having gone through refinement processes (such as flours or ultra-processed foods).

In order to complement nutrition, we must not forget that physical activity improves our state of health, just as in the case of people who do not have HIV. Frequent exercise helps alleviate nerve tension and stimulates appetite. It’s not necessary to practice a sport or go to the gym, home chores or physical jobs count as a physical activity. The important thing is that the chosen activity becomes part of daily life and helps form a new lifestyle. 

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If you have any questions about HIV, your health and your treatment, at AHF Panama we can help you. Write to us via WhatsApp and we’ll gladly answer all your questions.